Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling the heat these days, with declining poll numbers, increasingly critical media coverage, including allegations of corruption and hard-hitting billboards (see here, here and here,) in his home state. He has also acquired a disparaging nickname, “Moscow Mitch,” thanks to his Putin-friendly policies.
McConnell gloried in his former nickname, “the Grim Reaper.” But the “Moscow Mitch” moniker seems to have legs, judging by the latest tally of Google hits (58,700,000) the term generates. Indeed, the usually unperturbable McConnell is ticked off about it, according to recent reports.
McConnell’s failed “leadership” history does add up to a disturbing portrait of an out-of-touch politician, whose arrogance and callousness toward anyone outside the shrinking base of Republican voters invites harsh criticism and growing protests. But he may be on the verge of an even steeper deterioration of his image, thanks to his rigid views opposing gun safety reforms in the wake of the three mass shooting during the last 9 days.
For a look at McConnell’s awful record on the issue, check out the blog, “On the Issues: Every Political Leader on Every Issue,” a blog affiliated with Snopes, which provides a some of the history of McConnell’s obstruction of gun safety, including:
Voted NO on banning high-capacity magazines of over 10 bullets in 2013.
Opposed the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty in 2013.
Voted YES on allowing firearms in checked baggage on Amtrak trains in 2009.
Voted YES on prohibiting foreign & UN aid that restricts US gun ownership in 2007.
Voted YES on prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers in 2005.
Voted NO on banning lawsuits against gun manufacturers for gun violence in 2004.
Voted NO on background checks at gun shows in 1999.
Voted YES on loosening license & background checks at gun shows in 1999.
Voted YES on maintaining current law: guns sold without trigger locks in 1998.
But McConnell has probably done even more damage to gun safety prospects with his most damaging power as majority leader — killing debate and votes on gun reforms in the Senate. Recently, he blocked a bill that would prohibit most person-to-person firearm transfers without a background check. The bill passed the House by wide margins. McConnell placed the bills on the Senate calendar, instead of referring the legislation to a committee for action.
Democrats, of course, are hopeful that McConnell can be defeated at the Kentucky polls in 2020, even though KY is a red state. McConnell has a strong opponent in Democrat Amy McGrath. If McConnell survives McGrath’s challenge, however, there are two other ways he can be removed from the majority leadership: 1. Democrats win a Senate majority, and 2. Republicans hold their Senate majority, but suffer such deep national losses across the board that they decide they need a new leadership face. Any one of these three possibilities is a plausible outcome.
Regardless of his re-election prospects, McConnell may now be a significant liability for his party at the national level. As the most well-known Republican after Trump, he will be the “face” of his party if Trump is defeated and he is re-elected. As a GOP politician with high name recognition, he already fills that role to some extent.
In his post, “Mitch McConnell Will Be The Boogeyman Of The 2020 Election,” Kevin Robillard, senior political reporter for HuffPo, notes that a poll of 12 presidential battleground states by the Democratic campaign finance reform group End Citizens United indicates some trouble ahead for the Majority Leader.
After being exposed to messaging about McConnell, the Democratic advantage grew to 12 percentage points. That was more effective than messages about President Donald Trump (6 percentage points) or congressional Republicans overall (9 percentage points)… McConnell’s approval rating among swing-state voters in the survey is just 26%, with 50% viewing him unfavorably. Among independents, just 18% view him favorably, and 58% have a negative opinion. In counties that swung from former President Barack Obama to President Trump, his approval rating is 25%, while 53% have a negative opinion.
Meanwhile Democrats should prioritize support for the “Ditch Mitch” movement, fund his Democratic opponent and crank up the heat on McConnell on all fronts, especially regarding gun safety, which is increasingly viewed as a national security issue.